Boston, Christmas Eve!
I've lost count of the number of times my youngest, Brynne, has asked: "Dad, what do you want for Christmas?" The answer never changes. "I just want to spend the day with my family, and know that everyone is healthy and happy." Apparently, that's not enough of an answer for a soon-to-be 11-year-old whose Wish List for Santa is twice as long as my typical blog entry. But it's a truthful answer, uncharacteristically (for me) short and sweet. If I can wake up Christmas morning in a warm home, my wife by my side, knowing that Brynne and Maddi are eagerly awaiting our arrival in the family room, then I'm a supremely happy man. Not carefree, but certainly happy and content.
Obviously, some of the "big" things I could ask for, like consistent employment and maybe that new addition on our cozy cottage here in Hamilton, are out of the realm of Christmas wishes. This has been a difficult year for many, and we didn't dodge the economic bullet either. Both Lauri and I seem to be working harder for less, but we're working, and we still love what we do (most of the time, anyway). And we still love being with each each other, and with our girls (I should probably include the knucklehound, True, and the two new kittens, Izzy and Molly, into that mix). In that regard, we're truly wealthy.
Tonight we ran off to Bolton, Massachusetts, for Christmas Eve with the in-laws. Maddi and Brynne's Grandmom and Granddad Zinn flew in from Kansas the night before, so there was no reason not to get a head start on the weekend's festivities at my brother in-law Rob's house, along with his beautiful wife Kate and two precocious youngsters, my nieces Emma and Olivia. Tomorrow, we'll be New Hampshire bound, to my sister in-law Jenni's place in Pelham, with almost the entire Zinn clan in tow (the accompanying photo above is from last year's Christmas Day at the Woodheads' home, with all the Zinn grandchildren!). Then, on Sunday, it's back to New Hampshire (Concord this time), to spend an afternoon with my siblings MaryEllen, Chris and Sean, their spouses, and all the nieces and nephews (in a neat twist, Maddi and Brynne are the youngest kids on my side of the family, but the oldest on Lauri's side). With luck, the girls' Grampy and my Uncle Art will join us as well, No doubt the Colorado boys, Matt and Mike, will phone in to say "Merry, merry!" along with their brides, Laura and Brenda, and maybe Uncle Bill and the Pare clan will check in from Maryland. Sure hope so, anyway.
These gatherings are a special events, traditions we carry on in the spirit of our parents and grandparents, a reminder of the things that are truly important. The atmosphere of camaraderie is unrivaled, the sense of belonging unquestioned. The laughter and the heartfelt conversation flow freely. I pray that Mom and Dad are able to look down from their perch high above us, and enjoy the sights of their children, and grandchildren, sharing these family-affirming moments. It's all but impossible to stop my mind from reeling back through the years, to the snow-covered mornings in New Jersey and New Hampshire, or wherever our holiday travels took us. There are instances when the nostalgia is almost overwhelming.
Still, Christmas, even more than New Year's, is also a time for me to reflect. I know how lucky I am to be part of not one, but two large caring and loving families. I think of the multitude of friends that Lauri and I are so fortunate to have, including those long-lost pals we've reconnected with via FaceBook (during our somewhat haphazard sojourn into social media). We live in a terrific neighborhood, with thoughtful neighbors. No, last year wasn't always a walk in the park, but that's why it helps to have a memory as selective as mine. I can't look back on 2009 without smiling, without feeling blessed. And that, I truly believe, is no accident.
I hope and pray that the holidays hold the same small-but-significant miracles for each and every one of you. Joyeux Noel, and a very Happy New Year!
-Brynne, MaryAlyssa, Lauri & Brion
West Hill Grinder, Putney, Vermont
15 hours ago